The transportation sector found itself in a totally unprecedented situation when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. Lockdowns were implemented, businesses were shuttered, and roads were suddenly devoid of the usual volume of vehicles, including those belonging to public transportation.
But the need for mobility remained, and in fact became crucial, for frontliners – not just those in the health sector but also those who bravely risked their lives to deliver food and other basic goods as well essential services so that the majority of the population can remain safely at home.
It was in this context that the Department of Transportation, which is marking its 122nd anniversary this year, went over and above its duty to ensure the safe movement of people and goods amid the restrictions and despite the health crisis.
The DOTr offered free bus rides to frontliners to ensure that health workers are able to report for work in their respective hospitals and clinics.
As of January 19, the total number of passengers that availed of the program has reached 2,033,738, of which 560,720 were from the National Capital Region and Greater Manila areas.
“If we hold hands and understand our current situation, this inconvenience, in my view and my belief, is only temporary,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said in an interview in June last year when Metro Manila was placed under the less restrictive General Community Quarantine.
“This will be replaced by what we call the long-lasting convenience and connectivity and mobility of people,” he added.
The pandemic may have delayed the rollout of certain infrastructure projects, but the DOTr strived to meet its targets under less than ideal circumstances last year.
It signed P85 billion in construction contracts for a crucial phase of the North-South Commuter Railway System in Luzon, a major project of the Duterte administration.
The Metro Rail Transit-3 boosted its train operating speed to 60 kilometers per hour in December, cutting the average time between trains by half as a result of rail replacement works in the transportation line.
And just this week, the Santolan, Anonas, and Katipunan stations of the Light Rail Transit Line-2 are finally back in operation after over a year of repair works.
All of these are part of DOTr’s commitment to fulfill the administration’s vision of ushering in a Golden Age of Infrastructure for the country.
The DOTr has already completed 121 airport projects while 111 are still ongoing, in recognition that air connectivity is a vital enabler of economic growth and development.
The department is also working toward improving the railway sector by extending the current length of the country’s railway lines from 77 kilometers to 1,900 kilometers by 2022 and beyond.
As for the maritime sector, the DOTr has carried out immense improvements and advancements in the country’s seaports to boost maritime connectivity and mobility. The DOTr and the Philippine Ports Authority have completed 189 commercial port projects while 37 are ongoing.
Transparency and performance
The department has been recognized as one of the Top Performing and Requested Agencies during the 2018 Freedom of Information (FOI) Award, besting more than 300 agencies onboard the government’s eFOI portal.
Since the launch of the eFOI portal in 2016, the DOTr has received a total of 511 requests and was able to process 309 requests from January to November 2018.
The DOTr was also nominated as one of the top three performing agencies under the Department Category, where it was listed along with the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor and Employment.
Attached agencies under the DOTr were also recognized such as the Light Rail Transit Authority and the Philippine Ports Authority, which was nominated under the Government-Owned & Controlled Corporation category.
Back in 2017, the DOTr also received a plaque of recognition for being the first government agency to enroll all of its attached agencies and offices into the eFOI portal, and was nominated for the Department Award.
As it celebrates its 122nd anniversary this year, DOTr is working toward completing its 2030 vision of becoming a world-class organization that provides integrated transport, connects people, islands, families, communities and the nation with the rest of the world, constantly responding for environmentally sustainable and global competitive transport.